In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God… (Read the whole passage)
“Mom, the camera isn’t on”
“But I can see you.”
“Yes, you can see me, but I can’s see you”
Marlena was again waving her arms at her computer screen, trying to look as though she was pointing down at the camera button on the other end of the screen.
It was Christmas Day, and she was “zooming” with her elderly parents. They had been zooming regularly for a few months by now. It had taken herculean effort in patience just to get her mom to find the gallery or “Brady Bunch” view. But she still had trouble turning on her camera and microphone every week.
2020 had been that kind of year.
Marlena, her husband Jim, and their kids David and Lizzie, were no strangers to extraordinary Christmases. A few years ago, they had been travelling to see her parents and got caught in a snow storm on the way. They spent Christmas Eve with a bunch of strangers snowed in a roadside motel. They even cooked their own potluck Christmas dinner in the restaurant.
On another Christmas Eve, they had welcomed new refugees from Syria for their first Christmas in their new home.
And another year, as their family helped serve at the local soup kitchen, they heard that some youth from their church, St. David’s, had been with been on patrol with a local social worker for the homeless community when they helped a homeless woman give birth in the alley beside the church!
But as appropriately Christmassy as these experiences had been… a global pandemic had changed everything and made for a completely new and unusual Christmas.
Last night they had their COVID Christmas Eve all planned: they would go and pack take out meals at the soup kitchen, then go for a drive through of Candy Cane Lane all before online church for Christmas Eve.
But Father Angelo, their priest from St. David’s, had called and asked to make a last minute meal package delivery. When they went to make the delivery, they had a surprise meeting with old friends.
The delivery was to same couple that they had met a few Christmases earlier when they had been snowed in a the roadside motel on Christmas Eve. Jesse and Miriam. Miriam had gone into labour and given birth to Christopher. Marlena remembered how badly she wanted that Christmas to be perfect, yet in the weeks leading up to Christmas things she just couldn’t keep juggling it all.
But in meeting Jesse and Miriam she was reminded how imperfect the first Christmas was. How plans were derailed and people just had to make do.
Last night when the two long lost families went for a Christmas Eve walk, all the memories and feelings came flooding back. Watching her kids play with little Christopher. Watching Jim and Jesse laugh about work and fatherhood. Walking with Miriam had put Christmas back into perspective again for Marlena… it was the perfect Christmas Eve miracle for the year 2020.
But Christmas Day was a little more back to the reality of the world.
“Okay, I can see you now.” Marlena told her mom.
Marlena’s mom began her usual recounting of the week.
“I was talking to my friend Gladys over coffee the other day.”
“Not in-person I hope” interrupted Marlena.
“Don’t you worry, we washed our hands and wore masks.”
“How did you drink the coffee mom?
“Well… we took off the masks for coffee!”
Marlena felt like she was in the movie Ground Hog day every time she talked to her parents… even on Christmas Day.
“David, Lizzie, time to open presents with grandma and grandpa on zoom!” Marlena called to her family.
Opening gifts was kind of normal. There were the usual gasps and squeals of delight of Christmas morning. The kids did have to take each toy and hold it up to the computer so Grandma and Grandpa could inspect them. But they were together with the normal Christmas morning crowd none the less.
When the gifts were all opened and the zoom ended, the family sat down to brunch. Marlena saw that she had cooked way more food than they needed. Old Christmas habits… she figured.
After brunch, Marlena sat and stared out the window. The kids were off playing with new toys. Jim was setting up his new iPad. But Marlena was longing for something else. Last night, after seeing Jesse and Miriam, Christopher and his new sister Lilly, Marlena had felt something for the first time in a long while. This little family that they had taken under their wing, up against the world, with barely anyone in their corner… somehow managed embody hope for the future. Looking into baby Lilly’s eyes she felt the same things that she felt when she looked in baby Christophers’s went he had been born at the motel. As she looked into this child’s eyes she could see herself, she could see everyone that she loved, she could see the whole world. In this little helpless child, Marlena could see the divine, she could see a great passion for all creation, she could see God in flesh — Emmanuel. Looking at Jesse and Miriam, Marlena could saw Mary and Joseph, looking at Christopher and Lilly, she could see the Christ child. The whole world became different than it was. A world with God in it.
“Mom” Lizzie’s voice interrupted Marlena’s thoughts. “Could we take the extra brunch leftovers to Jesse and Miriam? I want to see Christopher again”
“Yeah, mom and dad! Please!?!” Echoed David.
Jim shrugged, “I don’t see why not.”
“Can we wrap some gifts for Christopher?” David asked.
And soon the family was busy changing out of their Christmas PJs, packing up brunch and putting some well loved toys that David and Lizzie had grown out of into boxes to be wrapped.
It wasn’t long before Marlena Jim, David and Lizzie were standing Jesse and Miriam’s front yard. Lizzie ran up and knocked.
Jesse and Christopher opened the door.
“We come bearing gifts!” Jim said.
Soon the two families were standing in the front yard. Christopher was opening his gifts with glee, David and Lizzie were clapping excitedly.
“I don’t know what to say” Jesse said. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“We know” said Jim. “We wanted to”
“It was the kid’s idea really. And that makes it a gift to us” added Marlena.
“But we can’t repay you.” Miriam said.
“Well, now.” Jim interrupted. “There is one thing you can do, you specifically Jesse. What are you doing on December 27th?”
“I need a warehouse foreman. Business has been too much for me to handle on my own. You are a contractor, so I know you have managed people before. That’s the hardest part, I can teach you the rest.”
“I don’t know what to say” Jesse was floored, Miriam was smiling so wide.
“Just be ready for work at 6:45am. I will pick you up.” Jim tried to sound stern, but he couldn’t keep from grinning.
The two families visited – socially distant and outdoors, of course – for a little longer and then said their goodbyes.
As Jim loaded the kids into the car, Miriam and Marlena lingered.
“I still can’t believe you saved us, and on Christmas again.” Miriam said.
“Oh, you were the ones who saved us… again.” Marlena replied. “But this year, nothing surprises me anymore. And now that we have found each other again, there is no getting rid of us. You are family now” Marlena said. “Besides, you will have to peel our kids away from your family.
“Remember what the old priest read to us at the hotel during that chaotic but amazing Christmas dinner?” Asked Marlena.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Miriam recited.
“The word has come to us, and we are each other’s flesh. We belong to each other for good now. Just the way God intended on that first Christmas.”
Miriam nodded to that,
Part 1 of this Story is found here: A Pandemic Christmas Eve